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Which human needs shape your life?

Updated: Jan 23, 2019

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Ever wondered why your boss continues to follow the status quo, rather than embracing new and innovative ideas? Frustrated with your partner’s continual desire to try a new restaurant when there’s an incredible, tried and tested, Italian round the corner? Amazed by your siblings' relentless clamouring for praise and attention? 

Tony Robbins has an answer. He believes there are 6 fundamental needs that determine our actions and have a huge effect on the overall course of our lives. Whether we consciously label or define them, they affect our choices, determining what we value and pursue.

Check out the six below and decide on your top two:


1. CERTAINTY - The need for control and security. Having the stability of knowing and being definite about your beliefs, role and life. Many people stay in a relationship, job, house or country because they value the certainty and security above their other needs. There are many forms of certainty, but ‘certainty junkies’ are often ‘risk-averse’.

2. VARIETY - The opposite: uncertainty. The thrill of the new; wanting to pursue the different or exotic. We all know someone who loves a change of scenery: they never want to go on holiday to the same place and are always looking for new opportunities and experiences. The desire for stimulating novelty may seem exhausting to you, but for them it is a fundamental need.

3. SIGNIFICANCE - Feeling what you do matters and is important. Being recognised, appreciated and valued for who you are or what you’ve done. Tony argues that criminals often seek significance by exerting force over their victims. Holding a gun to someone's head is a quick way to feel important and powerful.

4. CONNECTION - Being connected to a person, ideal, group or country. We all need love to a greater or lesser extent, but people often settle for connection as it’s easier to attain. We all know that person who just lights up when they’re around friends or family; a core part of their identity thrives on these interactions.

5. GROWTH - Naturally evolving and making the most of your talents and capabilities. Developing and progressing in a life of continuous improvement. That colleague who's constantly going on that new course, learning that new skill, or trying that new fitness class has probably got a fundamental need to grow. 

6. CONTRIBUTION - Giving to others and putting them first. Being of service with the focus on them rather than ourselves. A concern for helping not getting is not only an incredibly useful attribute, it is also a fundamental need for many ‘givers’.

Tony Robbins argues that 1 - 4 are the needs of the personality, while 5 & 6 are the needs of the spirit. The theory goes that we will all find a way to fulfil the needs of the personality, but true flourishing comes from focusing on and cultivating the needs of the spirit.

Some Takeaways

  • I found it illuminating to spot and realise my dominant needs and the needs of those around me. So that’s why I clamour for approval and the spotlight. Awareness of others’ top needs was also transformative. Aha, so that’s why she reacts so fiercely. That’s why he’s always off after the next vivid experience. It provides you with a different map and possibly a new awareness that can be useful.

  • This is a snapshot. Nothing stands still. Seeing yourself and others more clearly means you can also see what changes could be made. I’ve become stuck by my need for certainty without realising it - so now I can prioritise variety or growth. What do I really contribute to others? I need to start focusing on how I can better help those around me.

  • Each need has positive and negative qualities. Balance and harmony are desirable. We have a tendency to concentrate on what comes easily; have a think about ways of being less lop-sided.

  • When I first encountered the six needs I had the following reaction: what about the unconscious? Often I don’t know what I think or why I did something until later, if at all. What about hormones - surely they are the consistent drivers of behaviour?

Growing Happy Recommendations

1. Write down your top 2 needs and go find a colleague, friend or partner. Ask them to write down their 2 dominant needs and yours, before comparing answers. Were you right in your assessments and what did you learn?

2. Identify 1-3 changes you want to make as a result of identifying the needs that run your life? What are the consequences of holding onto your most valued needs and how can you rebalance them? Every morning spend 5 minutes reflecting on how you can increase your focus on the 2 needs of the spirit (growth and contribution) and planning how you can incorporate them into your daily routine.

For support building a healthy daily routine join the Growing Happy community and receive our free weekly Lifestyle Guide. Read more articles from Growing Happy here.


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